How Becoming a Parent Changes You
A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law (mother of 1, considering child #2 in the near future) asked me what was harder: going from 1 to 2 children or 2 to 3.
My response was immediate and I didn’t even have to think about it: it was harder going from 0 to 1 than either of the others. She just nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s probably true.”
It was much harder to transition from being a couple to being a family than it was to expand that family. I love my family (now a family of five), but there were and are some difficult changes that occur when you transition from being a couple to being a family.
1. You Financial Priorities Change
Adding children to our lives meant completely re-prioritizing our family budget. Between daycare, food, clothes, college savings, increases in utilities, furniture, toys, and everything else baby, most of our disposable income disappeared overnight. We had to get used to a new way of operating, find places to cut our budget or cut back on our lifestyle. While it is true that this does not get any easier with each subsequent child, the mindset is already in place and ideally, you already have some things and have learned what you can buy second hand and what you don’t need to buy at all when you have more children.
2. It Changes Your Relationship
Perhaps the hardest thing about having that first child is the effect it has on the marriage. You will never again be just a couple and sometimes it can feel like all you have in common now is the kids. What’s worse is that sometimes it can feel like your life has changed significantly while your husband/partner’s hasn’t and that can lead to resentment, bitterness and a breakdown of communication. It is important to remember that you are on the same team and that you are still the people you were as a couple.
To stay united, you need to get really good at communication. Remember that your partner cannot read your mind. No matter how obvious things are to you, you’re going to have to verbalize your needs and expectations. I also recommend having scheduled date nights as often as possible, overnight getaways once a year, and monthly business meetings to keep you on the same page.
3. It Changes Your Long Term Perspective
Petty drama? Not important. Stupid people at work? Not important. In fact, most of the things that consumed your thoughts and distracted you from being happy are no longer that important. You know what is important? Making the best choices to create the best life for your family. That’s not to say that you won’t be stressed out by work or hurt by something someone says, but when you look at that baby, you realize that none of that other stuff is going to be there in the long run. As a theatre teacher, my job was very life consuming. It was easy for me to get tunnel vision about all of the tasks that needed to be done to create an excellent show. I also became very close to a lot of students because I worked with them so closely year after year. And yet . . . it is my family, not my students that will be there for the rest of my life. My time with my students is always going to have an expiration date, but my family never does. Every choice I make needs to serve my family.
4. It Changes Your Sleep Patterns
My Saturdays used to include sleeping until 10 or 11 and I could stay up as late as I wanted. Kids have changed all of that. 9:00 seems awfully late now and I haven’t slept past 7:00 am in years. I keep telling myself that someday my kids will be teenagers that I will have to drag out of bed.
5. It Makes You Appreciate Your Parents
I’ve always loved my mom, but everyday that I’m a mom, I learn to appreciate every sacrifice she made for me. Being a parent is hard work and I am blessed to have a fantastic mother and mother-in-law to walk through it with me.
6. It Changes Your Heart
There is something about that tiny person that just makes you want to be a better person. There are so many things that you are able to do for your children that you could never do for yourself. The process of becoming a parent works on your heart and makes you less selfish and more compassionate. It can renew the wonder of life and delight your soul to see a little person grow and learn. Nothing does that quite like being a parent.
Adding that first child to the family is a game-changer and so much more challenging than any other children. It changes who you are. It makes you Mom.